Here’s what sucked the most about the lockout. Yes, those of us trapped in its tangles, forced into paying attention can tell you about the owners’ intransigence, theirÂ obstinacy, the obtuse veracity of their never-satisfied lust for money and power. I came to think of the owners as a giant maw, constantly consuming everything, Roger Mason and JaVale McGee caught between the strains of their whale teeth as Billy Hunter made tea for everyone. We can tell you about one tactical error after another made by the players, by their unending string of missed appraisals. We can tell you about long nights waiting for no word, about the repeated yanking of the rug from out from under us and on our chain.
But the worst part about the lockout was this.
Nothing came next.
There was no “next game.” No “Oh, well, we’ll get ‘em next time.” There was no “Next year, we should get a wing/guard/center/living body down low.” You can imagine what the league will be like but not really because it could be six months from now it could be six years from now it could be six minutes from now. Tomorrow does not exist in a lockout. Next game does not exist. There is no offseason, trade deadline, All-Star Game, playoff run, anything. None of it exists. It’s like the whole of this sport that so many draw joy and escape from is simply held in purgatory. There’s no sunrise coming to save you.
And then there was light.
Beyond the immediate joy of discovering there would be a season, that friends would have jobs and I would not have to research legal proceedings any further, there was something else. I started writing about the NBA because I need somewhere for my mind to go. I need an outlet for the constant wheeling. The same lack of sleep that leads to too many words on too many subjects every day doesn’t go away without a season. It just meant nights waiting, and resenting the entire process. There was nowhere to go. The process of thinking about trades, free agency, rotations, adjustments, development, the constant evolution of the game is what gives the steam engine up top somewhere to release the product created. In short, I needed there to be an NBA tomorrow, and for a long while there wasn’t.
But now there is. And while there’s bitterness and hurt from just about everyone over how this went down, about how over 300 people lost their jobs, about how cities that needed it lost economic engines, about how a group of people essentially got together and pouted their way into nearly killing a sport because they didn’t like young black men telling them they were going to control their own professional futures, the season is still coming. And maybe it’s short-sighted to just be happy about that, to forget all the economic, moral, ethical, philosophical and financial impacts of the result of the lockout and the future of labor disputes in the NBA. but it doesn’t make it any less valuable. That’s probably the biggest thing I learned in the lockout. We need it. Those of us who love the game, the hardcore fans, the psychos who post 100 times a day on messageboards, who haunt Twitter looking for news and rumors all while complaining about the rumors, the ones who can tell you the 12th man on every team, that’s a lot of people. Everyone needs an escape, a way to get past the cruel reality that life is difficult and most times out to get you and those you care about. The league does that. The game does that. Not Euroleague, or college ball, or exhibitions (Dear God, don’t get me started). There’s something about the league that gets to people, that drives a love. And that joy is worth saving. It’s worth remembering.It’s worth basking in.
So, no, I don’t care that we’ve immediately switched to talking about CP3 in New York or Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. I don’t care if the Lakers go 66-0 or the Celtics and Lakers play again in another terrible Finals series. I don’t care if the Heat don’t try and still win 55 games and win the Finals. I don’t care about the luxury tax or escrow payments. I care that for a few years, there’s a tomorrow. There’s a league. There’s the Heat trying to figure out a rotation and Denver trying to figure out an identity, Golden State trying to figure out a defense and Tyreke Evans trying to figure out a position. There’s something else.
There’s a million ways to think about this league, and we discover smarter, better, and more interesting ones every day.
Just imagine what we’ll think of tomorrow.